Kentucky, 1833. When Elizabeth Duncan’s father dies suddenly, the young woman finds herself responsible for her brother Payton and sister Hannah. Her only option seems to be marriage to her father’s landlord, an older man who frightens and repulses her. Praying for guidance, a packet of seeds falls from her Bible. Elizabeth remembers her father’s description of the Shaker community where he bought the seeds: a peaceful village where no one in need is turned away. The Shakers welcome the Duncan family, but adapting to the strict religious community is difficult. Free spirit Hannah finds conforming almost impossible, and Elizabeth worries about her romantic feelings toward Ethan Boyd, a Shaker believer. Marriage is forbidden among Shakers.
From the hanging of chairs on pegs, to the separation of genders, to the stomping out of evil, Gabhart brings to life Shaker customs with respect and dignity. This is a well-written story with engaging characters and melodious dialog. Gabhart clearly invokes the language of the past, capturing the respectful speech of the Shakers and differentiating it from regular 19th-century conversation. The Believer is a page-turning romance, with danger, mystery, and thoughtful musings on the importance of religion and relationships.